THE PRE-RAPHAELITESCategory: Architecture + Painting
After this period, during which the English painting shed its lustre over a great part of the world, we see England withdraw within herself in an effort very praiseworthy in the loftiness and purity of its intentions, but in spite of a few incontestible talents, very slight in its results and adding little to the treasure of universal art. To a certain extent it may be said that Pre-Raphaelitism is a continuation and transformation of the idealist movement, fantastic and mystic by turn, which produced at the beginning of the century Fuseli and Blake.
Ford Madox Brown (1821—-1893) painted his first Gothic pictures filled with an arid precision, a scrupulous attention to minute details, a harsh colouring, in a word almost everything which was to become the rule in Pre-Raphaelitism. In 1848 the new School found its name; we should rather say the new “Brotherhood”, for under the influence of John Ruskin — an imperious aesthetician with a passion for French .cathedrals and quattrocento Italians, a poet in his way, but impregnated wTith the spirit of puritan ascetism — the group assumed an almost religious character and each of its members bad to append to his signature the initials’P. R. B. (“Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood”). Their intention was to react against the facile frivolity of the Lawrence tradition in art, but they traced its decadence farther back to the remote effect of the academic style for which Raphael himself has to be the first to answer. There must be a return to the simplicity of the Primitives and a pious copying of nature. In spite of all this naivete to which they ardently aspired, the works of the Pre-Raphaelites are everywhere filled with artificiality more literary than plastic. From the start the new school was influenced by two men of letters, the critic Ruskin and Dante Gabriel Rossetti who was poet and journalist before becoming a painter. The group included Holman Hunt (1827-1910), Sir John Millais (1829-1896), and Burne- Jones (1833—1898). While Bufne-J ones was still painting his reveries, other artists were attracted by new currents of thought. Breaths of outer air were changing the English atmosphere wafted from realism, French impressionism and also from America.
The few undoubted and accepted artists of the twentieth century pursue their own line of development. Walter Richard Sickert, Lucien Pissarro, P. W. Steer, Ambrose McEnvoy and Augustus Johi are names on which the historian can rest with some degree of certainty. Although the French influence has been the predominating factor in modern English art, it has been proved that English art is at its best when it is purely English.
(From the Encyclopaedia Britannica)